Knowing When To Do Nothing

Don’t mess with human biology unless you know what you’re doing. Maintain a high burden of proof when it comes to trying to outsmart nature, else you’re nearly guaranteed to do more harm than good.

“First Do No Harm” is one of the foundational doctrines of medicine. Rightly so.

It’s easier said than done. In our action-oriented world, doing nothing in medicine is often the hardest thing to do, even when it’s a foundational doctrine. And we continue to pay a high price when we don’t abide by it.

We need to understand the value and importance of doing nothing.

In this case, doing nothing is not failing to act, but understanding when it makes sense to intentionally alter the course of a complex system, and when it makes sense to leave it the hell alone. Ultimately, it’s about assessing and acknowledging the limits of our knowledge.

It is a doctrine that should also be foundational to how we support developing brains, including how we educate.

School is a massively disruptive force in the course of neurological development. Left to its own devices, our brain would never choose to be indoors all day, physically confined, restricted in its interactions with other brains, and its exploration of the natural world (and when it protests, as it so often does, we medicate it until it stops, or at least quiets down a bit).

With school, we are willfully overriding the brain’s natural instincts, depriving it of the very inputs it craves. The burden of proof for doing this should be extraordinary.

With school in its present form, we’re choosing to veto millions of years of human evolution, to say we know better when it comes to how to support and nourish a growing brain.

Of course, we have never done this analysis. The consequences of disrupting the brain’s developmental program and depriving it of the natural inputs were not a part of the conversation when our educational system was first constructed. And they still aren’t.